Insider charges DuPont covered up Health Danger

posted on:
November 19, 2005

author:
Staff

A longtime DuPont Co. engineer went public Wednesday with allegations that the company covered up the dangers of the chemical C8 leaching from paper food packaging.

Glenn R. Evers also said he has sued DuPont for firing him when he raised questions about the issue.

“My personal convictions do not allow me to withhold what I know,” Evers said. “It is my belief that DuPont pushed me out of the company because of the ethical concerns I was raising.”

DuPont officials declined to answer specific questions about Evers, but issued a prepared statement that disputed his allegations.

In the statement, DuPont said Evers “had little if any direct involvement” in C8 issues and “lost his job in a restructuring.”

Common Food Packages Could Be Unsafe

Last year, Evers testified in a lawsuit against DuPont that French-fry boxes, microwave popcorn bags and other common food packages could contain unsafe amounts of C8.

Those allegations were first made public Tuesday in an article in the Gazette, which obtained Evers’ sworn statement through a public records request to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

DuPont says its products are safe and that it will contest Evers’ lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 28 in Delaware Superior Court.

Three months after his April 2004 deposition, federal agents questioned Evers as part of an ongoing criminal investigation of DuPont’s actions regarding C8, Evers said.

On Wednesday, Evers appeared at media briefings in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that has been investigating DuPont and C8.

Along with Evers’ comments, the organization released copies of company documents that back up his story, including a September 1987 DuPont memo that showed C8 was leaching from its “Zonyl RP” food packaging coating at three times the amounts allowed by federal food safety limits.

That memo also indicated that two similar DuPont products and a third made by 3M could have easily complied with the government limits. DuPont did not use the safer alternatives because they cost more to produce, Evers said.

Suppressed Information to Avoid Scrutiny?

Evers said DuPont “hid and suppressed the information so it didn’t face greater government scrutiny.”

“DuPont didn’t do anything,” Evers said in a conference call with reporters. “They went on contaminating people for well over another decade and they are in all likelihood doing this today.”

Evers said he went public after praying and consulting with his priest. Every Sunday, he recalled, it bothered him to ask God forgiveness for “not just what you do, but what you don’t do.”

Mike Casey, a media spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, dubbed Evers “the insider.” Casey said the internal DuPont documents were obtained “from a confidential source.”

“These documents indicate a failure to disclose critical public health information about a toxic chemical that never breaks down, that gets into our bodies and stays there,” said Tim Kropp, the organization’s senior scientist.

The new disclosures fuel concern that C8 has been spread throughout the environment and the general US population through chemical cousins widely used in various packaging.

Poisoned Water Supplies

C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. It is part of a family of chemicals called fluoropolymers. DuPont has used it since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg to make Teflon and other similar nonstick and stain-resistant products.

For decades, C8—and DuPont’s emissions of it—have essentially been unregulated by state and federal agencies.

In September 2004, DuPont agreed to pay $107.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by thousands of Parkersburg-area residents who alleged the company poisoned their water supplies with C8.

Evers’ allegations focus on a different, but related, set of fluorinated chemicals called telomers. These products are used widely in grease-repellent coatings for food packaging.

Researchers are finding that people around the world have C8 in their blood. The blood levels may be generally very small, but it is unclear whether these amounts are dangerous.

C8 is not used to make telomers. But scientists believe that telomers break down into C8 and other, similar toxic chemicals.

Microwave Popcorn Bags:

In a study published last month, Food and Drug Administration researchers said microwave popcorn bags alone could expose the public to “hundreds of times” more C8 than normal use of nonstick cookware.

“FDA is continuing to conduct post-market analysis on additional products where these same coatings/additives are present to have a more complete assessment of the exposure to fluorochemicals from paper,” said the FDA study, published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants.

In a Tuesday letter to the FDA, the Environmental Working Group asked for an investigation of Evers’ allegations and whether DuPont withheld information about Zonyl.

Kim Rawlings, an FDA spokeswoman, said the agency had not yet received the organization’s letter.

In an e-mail response, Rawlings added that, “FDA has no reason to change previous conclusions that the use of these chemicals is safe under the intended use in food packaging.”

DuPont said in its statement, “FDA has approved these materials for consumer use since the late 1960s, and DuPont has always complied with all FDA regulations and standards regarding these products.”

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